Americans are living longer these days thanks to modern medicine and healthier lifestyles. As a result of all this good stuff, the elder segment of our population is mushrooming and many new living issues have cropped up. Today’s focus is the role of color in design for empty nesters and seniors, whether they age in place at home or downsize to an age restricted community. Good senior design addresses furnishings for their safety as well as colors for their living environment.
The human eye undergoes major changes with age. Vision and color perception diminish over time. These changes can make everyday life quite challenging. A very important part of every senior design I do is to create a color scheme for elderly eyes that will improve their quality of life. The key to this is good use of color contrast in their living environment.
I always start with the walls and the doors since they are the biggest surfaces in a room. My recommendation is to use light colors for the wall in a matte finish. They increase light reflectance and do not cause annoying glare that can be hard on someone with cataracts. Furniture and fixtures show up easily if their colors are in contrast to a light wall color. In addition, when contrast colors are used on the baseboards and floors, it is easier to identify the edges of a room. Skillful use of contrast finishes can define a doorway and indicate the top and bottom steps of a flight of stairs. These painting ideas help make life easier for our aging population. One final word about paint- use low VOC paints to cut down on fumes which can affect the respiratory systems of some seniors. It is also eco-friendly.
I have some additional thoughts on color and pattern. Skip wallpaper patterns with large stripes. They tend to appear as bars in motion to senior eyes and can affect mobility. Wall coverings in small patterns are always winners. Be wary of using two intense colors side by side in the same room as their borders can appear unstable and jumpy. Limit the bright intense colors to grab bars, levers and light switches. It will make them easy to find.
Making the right interior design and color decisions can go a long way to a better life and comfortable living environment for our older citizens. Through my interior designs, I hope to impart a sense of safety, comfort and enjoyment for all seniors. They deserve the best in this new stage of living!